Concluding remarks

In document Towards a Radically Pragmatic Theory of If-Conditionals (Page 35-38)

I have hypothesized that the interpretation of conditionals is constrained by the assumption that the relation between antecedent and consequent is relevant to the purpose of non-truth- presentational introduction of the if-clause. This constraint, I have argued, can explain prominent features of the semantics of indicative conditionals. If correct, this gives us reason to think that non-truth-presentational introduction exhausts the semantic contribution of if- clauses, and that a form of relational contextualism is correct: conditionals have no truth-

53 Jackson (1987)

54 Stalnaker (1981), Nolan (2003) 55 Barnett (2006), Edgington (1995)

evaluable or intuitively complete content absent some contextually determined salient enough relation between antecedent and consequent.

Obviously, much work remains to be done, on many fronts. The account offered here needs to be extended to counterfactual conditionals. It needs to be integrated in a comprehensive theory about the syntax of conditionals and its interaction with semantics. More needs to be said about how conditionals interact with other expressions, in particular modal and probabilistic expressions. Things need to be said about how regularity concepts figure in reasoning and interact with probabilistic thinking. Popular criticism directed at contextualist theories of conditionals must be answered. And it needs to be shown that other theories of conditionals run into problems that are better handled by relational contextualism.

Some of this work has been done or is under way.57 But the arguments in this essay should be enough to show that relational contextualism is worth further examination. It offers a unified explanation of a wide variety of contents expressed by conditionals, without assimilating contents that are intuitively quite disparate and without divorcing the analysis of conditionals from the content that we intuitively take them to express. Moreover, it builds this explanation on non-truth-presentational introduction, an assumption about the conventional contribution of if-clauses that holds true on any plausible theory of conditionals. Even if it should fall short of explaining everything there is to explain about conditionals, it provides a minimal base on which further assumptions can be added—if needed.58

57 Björnsson (2007, 2008, ms1, ms2), Björnsson and Gregoromichelaki (forthcoming)

58 Early versions and parts of this essay have been presented at the philosophy departments at Oxford, Stockholm, Lund,

Uppsala, and Gothenburg Universities, at CSU Northridge, at ECAP5, Lisbon, UICMII, Brussels, and at the CEU summer school on conditionals in Budapest in 2009; I thank the audiences at all those places for valuable comments. A special thanks goes to Ken Turner for encouraging me to finally ready a portion of my sprawling manuscripts for print, to Josep Macia for pushing me to provide better answers to the question of why a contextualist account would not overgenerate contents (I realize that question has not been fully answered yet), and to Brian Leahy and Eleni Gregoromichelaki for their comments on the penultimate draft and their willingness to discuss some of the ideas finally coming together here at various points. Funding from Åke Wibergs Stiftelse and Magnus Bergvalls Stiftelse made it possible to do some of the work on this essay in a stimulating intellectual esnvironment in London.


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